June 1, 2021  |  

Highly sensitive and cost-effective detection of somatic cancer variants using single-molecule, real-time sequencing

Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies allow for molecular profiling of cancer samples with high sensitivity and speed at reduced cost. For efficient profiling of cancer samples, it is important that the NGS methods used are not only robust, but capable of accurately detecting low-frequency somatic mutations. Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing offers several advantages, including the ability to sequence single molecules with very high accuracy (>QV40) using the circular consensus sequencing (CCS) approach. The availability of genetically defined, human genomic reference standards provides an industry standard for the development and quality control of molecular assays for studying cancer variants. Here we characterize SMRT Sequencing for the detection of low-frequency somatic variants using the Quantitative Multiplex DNA Reference Standards from Horizon Discovery, combined with amplification of the variants using the Multiplicom Tumor Hotspot MASTR Plus assay. First, we sequenced a reference standard containing precise allelic frequencies from 1% to 24.5% for major oncology targets verified using digital PCR. This reference material recapitulates the complexity of tumor composition and serves as a well-characterized control. The control sample was amplified using the Multiplicom Tumor Hotspot MASTR Plus assay that targets 252 amplicons (121-254 bp) from 26 relevant cancer genes, which includes all 11 variants in the control sample. Next, we sequenced control samples prepared by SeraCare Life Sciences, which contained a defined mutation at allelic frequencies from 10% down to 0.1%. The wild type and mutant amplicons were serially diluted, sequenced and analyzed using SMRT Sequencing to identify the variants and determine the observed frequency. The random error profile and high-accuracy CCS reads make it possible to accurately detect low-frequency somatic variants.

June 1, 2021  |  

An improved circular consensus algorithm with an application to detect HIV-1 Drug Resistance Associated Mutations (DRAMs)

Scientists who require confident resolution of heterogeneous populations across complex regions have been unable to transition to short-read sequencing methods. They continue to depend on Sanger sequencing despite its cost and time inefficiencies. Here we present a new redesigned algorithm that allows the generation of circular consensus sequences (CCS) from individual SMRT Sequencing reads. With this new algorithm, dubbed CCS2, it is possible to reach high quality across longer insert lengths at a lower cost and higher throughput than Sanger sequencing. We applied CCS2 to the characterization of the HIV-1 K103N drug-resistance associated mutation in both clonal and patient samples. This particular DRAM has previously proved to be clinically relevant, but challenging to characterize due to regional sequence context. First, a mutation was introduced into the 3rd position of amino acid position 103 (A>C substitution) of the RT gene on a pNL4-3 backbone by site-directed mutagenesis. Regions spanning ~1.3 kb were PCR amplified from both the non-mutated and mutant (K103N) plasmids, and were sequenced individually and as a 50:50 mixture. Additionally, the proviral reservoir of a subject with known dates of virologic failure of an Efavirenz-based regimen and with documented emergence of drug resistant (K103N) viremia was sequenced at several time points as a proof-of-concept study to determine the kinetics of retention and decay of K103N.Sequencing data were analyzed using the new CCS2 algorithm, which uses a fully-generative probabilistic model of our SMRT Sequencing process to polish consensus sequences to high accuracy. With CCS2, we are able to achieve a per-read empirical quality of QV30 (99.9% accuracy) at 19X coverage. A total of ~5000 1.3 kb consensus sequences with a collective empirical quality of ~QV40 (99.99%) were obtained for each sample. We demonstrate a 0% miscall rate in both unmixed control samples, and estimate a 48:52 frequency for the K103N mutation in the mixed (50:50) plasmid sample, consistent with data produced by orthogonal platforms. Additionally, the K103N escape variant was only detected in proviral samples from time points subsequent (19%) to the emergence of drug resistant viremia. This tool might be used to monitor the HIV reservoir for stable evolutionary changes throughout infection.

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